Three things we still can hold true
ESPN.com experts tackle the remaining truths in college hoops.
With all the conference-shifting around the country this season, we felt it necessary to remember a few things that still will hold true. ESPN.com's experts tackle the three things that will remain a constant in this season of change.
Bilas' three things that still hold trueApologies to Oprah, but in this day and age of constant and dizzying change, there are still some basic things in basketball that are constant. Here are three things I know down to my socks are true:
1. Experience still matters
Ask any good coach what he would rather have: experienced and talented upperclassmen or super-talented youngsters. They will all say the former. Yeah, the game has gotten younger, but if you look at the top teams in the country this year, most will be led by upperclassmen.
When you have juniors and seniors, you win more often at the highest level. Last year, the Final Four was packed with experience and some young talent. While Marvin Williams may have been the most talented kid in St. Louis, the load was carried and the nets were cut down by Carolina's juniors and seniors.
Look all you want to Carmelo Anthony as your retort to this theory, but 'Melo was the exception to the rule. In Indianapolis, juniors and seniors will be carrying the loads -- and holding the scissors to cut the nets down.
2. Defense still keys winning
It has been posited by some that the best way to win a national championship is to build a great offensive team rather than a great defensive team. That is facile interpretation. Clearly, to win and win big, you need to be proficient at both ends of the court.
Last year, North Carolina became the first team since the early 1960s to lead the nation in scoring and win the national championship. While the Heels' defense was not as strong as their offense, it still was pretty darn good -- and vastly underrated.
Here's the rub: Most teams that are ranked high in scoring defense hold those positions because they are ball-control teams. They do not allow many possessions, and therefore do not allow as many points. Most good offensive teams score a lot of "easy" baskets, which come primarily off of defense. If you turn somebody over or force a bad shot and run off of it, you will face fewer defenders in the scoring area and go against set defenses less often.
If gritty, hard-nosed defense is not a team's staple, it will not win at the very highest level. You want to see which teams win? Look at scoring, but also look at shooting percentages, turnover margin, free-throw disparity, defensive field-goal percentage and rebound margin. Nobody wins big without guarding people. That will never change.
3. Dee Brown has no position; he's just a player
The reigning Big Ten Player of the Year didn't make my first- or second-team preseason All-American squads, primarily because I did them by position. Brown has no position in which to pigeonhole him. He is just a player, and a darn good one.
He is not a natural point and is small for a shooting guard, but the kid is a big-time college player who will carry perhaps the biggest load of any guard in America this year. He will have to bring the ball up, run some offense and call his own number. He will also have to adjust, at times, to waiting for the outlet before taking off downcourt -- something Deron Williams took care of for him last year. I know that Brown is first-team All-American good -- it's just that others out there are, too.
Fraschilla's three things that still hold true1. Kentucky will dominate the SEC
This year, though, it will be more a function of how weak the league will be relative to the recent past. The Wildcats' backcourt is solid, but after that there are a lot of question marks.
2. Charlotte will be a national sleeper again
The 49ers go from running the gauntlet of Conference USA competition, which included Louisville and Cincinnati, to the more manageable Atlantic 10. Vince Baldwin and Curtis Withers are among the league's best "inside-out" combos.
3. Memphis will dominate Conference USA
Just like Calipari's old UMass teams in the Atlantic 10. And, yes, like UMass, the Tigers' nonconference schedule will be tougher than their conference schedule.
Gottlieb's three things that still hold true1. Teams with the best point-guard play will come the closest to their potential
UCLA, Texas, Duke, Texas Tech, Villanova, Stanford, Kansas, Memphis, Gonzaga and others all have talented yet vastly different point guards. Elite point guards make a college team!
2. Big conference teams will play fewer and fewer great schedules
With 16 Big East games, coaches feel the need to schedule down in order to not take on too much water before conference play. With the huge new ACC, the Big 12, Big 10 and Pac-10, all the big boys will play two or three really solid preseason games and say that no one else would play them. Meanwhile the Horizon, MAC, MVC and WAC will play each other, beat each other and cry foul come March.
3. Full-court pressure still will be underutilized
Ten years ago, Kentucky, Arkansas, UCLA, Iowa, Texas and UConn all were picking up defense 94 feet from the rim. Gone are the days of UNLV and the truly Runnin' Rebels. Coaches fear the open end of the press because of the 3-point line, their shorter benches (with kids going to the pros) and their overall need to control a game. Someday, it may come back in vogue, but today half-court defense rules.
Katz's three things that still hold true1. Duke and North Carolina will play tremendous games
Forget about UNC's being down. The Tar Heels will give Duke tough games twice and, who knows, maybe even upset the Blue Devils at the Dean Smith Center. Remember when the roles were reversed in the mid-'90s? We anticipate the Tar Heels' rallying like never before when they play Duke.
2. Texas Tech will challenge for third, at least, in the Big 12
The Red Raiders once again have Bob Knight's players -- guys who know the system, like to run his system and limit their mistakes. Expect this squad to continue to improve throughout the season and be a tough out come Big 12 tournament and NCAA Tournament time.
3. A double-digit seed from a low-major conference will pull off a major first-round upset
Who knows, it could be Bucknell again ... or maybe Holy Cross or Oral Roberts. Also, expect Old Dominion to break through and win a game in the tournament.
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